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Rediscovering Ginninderra:
Ginninderra Farmers' Union

The Farmers' Union was inaugurated by Everard Crace in 1905. The object was to assist the local farmers in improving their methods of farming, to assist them in purchasing their seed, bags and farm machinery at lower cost and to create a closer social feeling among the residents of the district.

Lecturers from the Agricultural and Veterinary Departments were organised for the local farmers. Pruning demonstrations were given in the old Glenwood orchard, and in this way the Ginninderra Farmers Union established the first Agricultural Bureau in Australia.

Something else that must be credited to the Union, is the encouragement of farmers to discuss their difficulties and failures, and provision of means of seeking information from the Department of Agriculture. From this source instructive pamphlets and leaflets were procured and distributed amongst members of the association. A set of veterinary instruments and veterinary medicines were also procured for the use of members.

Ginninderra Farmers' Union Hall

One of the Union's first activities was to organise a sports meeting to raise funds for the erection of a building for use as a venue for both the Union's meetings and social activities and for the School of Arts. In 1906 a site was made available for the hall between Deasland and the general store and the new building was opened on 8th September that year:

Report of the opening of the School of Arts Hall on Saturday last in beautiful weather in the presence of a large number of people by Mrs Crace of Gungahleen. The building was erected by the local Farmers & Settlers Union one of the most progressive bodies in this district. Vice President, Mr James McCarthy explained that the Hall had been built out of funds raised from a ball and sports meeting. A sum of £53 had been raised by these means. Mr Smith, the contractor had given every satisfaction. The hall which has been erected at a cost of £73 is a substantial weatherboard structure adjoining Deasland, the property of Mrs Harcourt.

One end is partitioned off as a ladies room and library and later when some contemplated improvements have been effected it will be thoroughly up to date. The dimensions are 36ft by 17½ft. after the opening Miss Bertha Thompson handed to Mrs Crace a handsome bouquet composed of violets, jonquils, crocuses and ferns. Mr McCarthy then called on the president Mr EG Crace to address the gathering. Refreshments were handed round by the following committee of Ladies: Mesdames C W Thompson, Smith, Curran, P Shumack, E Rolfe, P F Blewitt, Buckmaster, J Kilby, J Bolton and Cavanagh. Messrs Crace, Jas McCarthy, S Southwell, G Gribble, H Curran, C W Thompson and T Gribble also assisted. Mr Jas McCarthy gave gramophone entertainment for the children. [Queanbeyan Age 11.9.1906]

The Hall was in constant use with a gymnasium, library, entertainment and lecture room and it was only two years before tenders were invited for 'alterations and additions':

Tenders are invited for alterations and erection of 15ft additions and two skillion rooms to the Ginninderra Farmers Union hall. Plan and specifications may be seen at the Age office. Full particulars can be obtained when inspecting (which is invited) from Mr H Curran. Tenders close with the undersigned on 10th March. Charles Thompson Hon Sec Farmers Union. [Queanbeyan Age 18.2.1910]

The contract was won by a Mr Sagacio with a tender of ₤62 and resulted in a building 40' x 18', with an excellent stage and two ante-rooms. A piano was acquired, and the opening of the refurbished Hall was marked by the Queanbeyan Dramatic Society performing the patriotic drama, 'Beneath the Union Jack'. 'The hall was packed with an appreciative audience. Over £15 was taken at the door. After the play a free dance was held in the hall.' [Queanbeyan Observer 27.5.1910]

A Smoke Concert was held after the successful 1910 Ginninderra Show, and the speeches reported by the Queanbeyan Observer tells us a bit about the Union at its peak:

The smoke concert was held in the Farmers' Union Hall at night. There was a large and enthusiastic gathering. Mr. E. G. Crace presidedand after the loyal toast had been honored proposed the toast of "The Farmers' Union." In a very able speech he claimed that the attendanc at the show was a record for the Ginidcrra district. Some of the old hands assisted otherwise, but nevertheless he maintained that it was the red-letter day of the district. The Farmers Union had many difficulties to contend with at its inception, but owing to the splendid spirit which existed amongst the members of the committee, and the generous help given by the outside public, it was now on its feet, and the time was not far distant when they would excel their wonderful success or the day just closed.

Shortly their district would be incorporated in the Federal area, but he hoped they would be able to continue their show and year by year add to their laurels. During the coming year they proposed getting more lecturers to address the members, for after all improvement in methods of farming was one of the main objects of the Union. They also proposed cooperating in the purchase of seeds and other requirements, and he hoped that everyone within the boundary would after today deem it an honor to belong to the Union.

The President called upon Mr. Thompson to respond. Mr. Thompson said he thought the President selected the name 'Farmers' Union' - and the last word of that title contained tho secret of their succcess. They were a happy family, each member striving with the other to see who could do the most for the Union. Of course, like every other society, they had their crosses but fortunately they had a President who did not know what failure meant, he led and the committee followed; and there they were today.

One of the features which made for success in all shows was a careful consideration of the school section. Unfortunately this was sometimes neglected, but the Union were wise enough to realise this and consequently every home in the district had an advocate and advertiser for the show and when the auspicious day arrived, the grown up were taken along to see their work - and hence the crowd. [Queanbeyan Observer 4 October 1910, p 2]

Incorporation into the new Federal Territory actually saw the end of the Union. In 1914 it was reported that not only the hall, but also the land of the Ginninderra district was being acquired as part of the new Federal Capital Territory. The resumption of the Farmers' Union and School of Arts hall caused the disbandment of these organisations. Their passing meant the loss of the strong community spirit that had prevailed for so long and with that, the village itself. Funds held by the Farmers' Union and the School of Arts were distributed to local hospitals, churches (of all denominations) and the Crippled Soldiers' Relief Fund.

In 1930 the building was finally 're-cycled' by transporting it to Hall, where it was added as a pavilion to the existing facilities at the showground:

"Last Wednesday afternoon proved rather interesting for Hall as the first portion of the hall from Ginninderra was transferred to the Hall Showground. It was placed on a jinker and drawn by Mr Gribble's traction engine which was under the management of Mr Tom Gribble. The travelling house occupied more than its share of the road and was escorted by the police. At Hall Creek it occupied the whole road space for a time. (see photo)........ The erection of the hall in the local showground will prove a great asset to the locality and will serve us a pavilion at the shows and many other purposes. The same hall was used as the pavilion at Ginninderra when the Farmers Union Shows was held there some years ago. [Queanbeyan Age 29.7.1930]

Ginninderra and the Royal Canberra Show

The Royal Canberra Show is now one of the country's biggest and best annual shows outside the State capital cities. It traces its origins back to 1908 when the Ginninderra Farmers' Union organised a show at Ginninderra. It was regarded as an unqualified success and in the ensuing years went on to become the most successful event of its type in the district.

The 1910 Show was held on Saturday 1st October. An advert in the Queanbeyan Age on 27th September exhorted 'Patronise the Farmer's Day - the Event of the Year. Splendid Picnic Ground. Excellent Program of events. A Big Happy Day. The Committee will see that you get it' Prizes for some Suplementary Specials' were offered by Jas McCarthy, M.O'Brien, J. Reid and W. Moore. 'Schedules and full particulars' could be obtained from 'the undersigned - Hon Sec Chas. W. Thompson'.

The seventh and last show at Ginninderra was held in 1915 because of the First World War, despite the event being attended by 1,200 people and raising much needed funds for the war effort. This also coincided with the Federal Government resuming ownership of the site.

The Advance Hall and District Association organised small district shows in 1924 and 1925. The show of 1927 is officially recognised by the royal National Capital Agricultural society as the 'inaugural' Canberra Show.

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